Finding the best vacuum for your home is a tricky task, not least because there are so many different types to choose from. Our pick of the best vacuum cleaners on the market covers everything from bagged and bagless models to cordless vacuums, cylinder vacuums and uprights.
Expect reviews from all the big brands, including Miele, Shark, Dyson and Vax. All the models here have been tested by our expert husband-and-wife reviewing team, Richard and Jackie Stevenson.
This round-up includes summaries of their findings, but there are links to the full reviews where you can see before and after photos from each machine too.
Read on for some advice on which type you should buy, details on how we test, and a useful summary of the best vacuum cleaners we’ve tested.
Related: Best robot vacuum cleaners
What’s the best type of vacuum cleaner?
There are two key choices to make here. First, you need to choose between bagged and bagless vacuum cleaners; secondly, are you better off with an upright or a cylinder vacuum cleaner? We’ll get to those in a moment.
But there’s one further option – cordless vacuum cleaners. The wire-free convenience they offer is a growing trend in the market, and well worth considering. Most aren’t as powerful as corded vacuum cleaners, but they make up for that with versatility and simplicity. Ridding yourself of the cable makes spot cleans much easier, so they’re a great alternative if you already have a decent corded vacuum cleaner for tougher jobs.
Bagged vs Bagless – Which is best?
Dyson popularised bagless vacuum cleaners, but there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both types. The main benefit of a bagless vacuum cleaner is no loss of suction, or at least a smaller reduction, as your cleaner fills up. Performance varies from brand to brand, depending on the quality of their systems, but that’s the key selling point.
The problem with bagless vacuum cleaners is that they can send dust back into your room when emptied unless you’re very careful. That’s where bagged vacuum cleaners are best, particularly the self-sealing kind used by the likes of Miele. A bagged vacuum cleaner is a better option if you’re an allergy sufferer.
Another advantage of bagless vacuum cleaners is that you don’t have to buy bags, saving some money in the long run. However, most bagless cleaners need to have their filters cleaned once a month or so, which means leaving them to dry for at least 24 hours. The only exception are some new Dysons, which are among the first to have no filter whatsoever.
Upright vs Cylinder Vacuum Cleaners
Whether you choose an upright or a cylinder vacuum cleaner largely comes down to the style of cleaner you prefer. Cylinder cleaners are normally easier to store, but pulling them around can become annoying. They’re not the best for people with bad backs, either, due to you having to bend down to pick them up.
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A good upright will breeze around your floors with ease, and they normally have wider cleaning heads that cover a larger area in one sweep. It can be tricky to get under furniture with an upright, but some are designed to avoid this problem.
If you’re unsure, see if you can try some out first.
How we test vacuum cleaners
Every vacuum cleaner in our round-up has been individually reviewed – each summary includes a link to our full, in-depth review of the product where you can read about the pros and cons, and see how well it cleans in our before-and-after photos.
When we review vacuum cleaners we look at the following things:
Manoeuvrability –Here we look at how easy it is to steer, pull and lift the machine. We test on carpets and hard floors and look for problems such as overbalancing on upright machines, flexibility and common issues like “sticking” heads on hard floors due to poorly designed cleaner heads.
Carpet cleaning – We test using white powder on dark carpets and test after three sweeps, where one sweep is up and down across the area.
Edge cleaning – This test looks at how well the machine cleans up to the edge of skirting boards before you have to resort to specialist crevice tools.
Hard floor cleaning – We conduct similar tests on hard floors and look at how well the vacuum cleaner sucks dust up from crevices and gaps in flooring.
Pet hair cleaning – How long and how many sweeps it takes to clean a 40cm-diameter circle of combed-in pet hair.
Cleaning on stairs – We see how easy it is to clean on stairs using the tools provided. We pay particular attention to how long the detachable hose is and how easy it is to carry the vacuum cleaner if you need to.
Noise – We measure how noisy the machine is in decibels recorded at head level.
We also check to see what accessories are included, how well they work and how versatile the machine is. For example, some vacuum cleaners are good at specific jobs, while others have lots of tools that make them open to more variety.
Other details we check include the cord length on corded vacuum cleaners, the battery life on cordless models and how easy it is to empty bagless models.